Four months, to be exact.
She folded lacy paper snowflakes into the desk drawer and hung pastel eggs in their place. Bunnies. Crosses, stark against a crimson sky - the painter’s five-year-old fingers incautious. Shamrocks and tulips and kites.
“Look,” she said to Kitty-Boy. “We’ve gone all the way from Baby Jesus to loaves and fish. That’s thirty-three years. I’m not sure I’m still me.”
Because, well, who the hell was me anyway?
The months of medical leave? Endless, endless. At first the itch to do had been unbearable, but then – at last – a happiness of sorts had come to light on her, fragile and lovely as a Luna moth. For the first time in years, she was well-rested. She visited loved ones whenever she wanted, traveled to Pennsylvania, rode the train to Chicago. She wrote. A lot. Once or twice she even cooked supper.
Who was that strange woman in the kitchen?
“You can’t be an EMT every day, Kitty-Boy. And besides, some people go their whole life and never do CPR. There are people out there who have never dragged hose at a house fire or tumbled out of bed at two a.m. to answer the page. And they don’t miss it; not at all.”
Kitty-Boy would have laughed if he could; what was she trying to talk herself out of?
“When I was little, I wanted to farm like my dad. I wanted to sing like my mom. I wanted to marry the boy next door and maybe raise cattle. But I’ll tell you what, I never thought about dragging bodies out of car wrecks.”
How had it happened? She only knew that when the bug bit her, it bit hard, leaving relationships in tatters, her children howling, her Kitty, for a time, unforgiving. Leaving her . . . stronger. Irrevocably dressed in navy blue, her best footwear combat boots, but stronger.
“Writing could be good for me too, Kitty. I love to write.”
But of course, she could write at the fire station in her spare time; hadn’t she always?
“Sometimes I think dealing with dead people hasn’t been good for me.”
But for each who dies, how many live? “And human interaction is probably a good thing, especially when one has hermitic tendencies.”
Besides. Not to be ghoulish, but she rather missed the traumas.
Kitty Boy sat directly on a new Easter placemat and washed his paws before finally glaring at her.
A human is nothing more than an onion, his gaze said plainly. And I’m not speaking of your precious trauma; I speak of your soul. Don’t be afraid to peel back the layers.
She thought that, indeed, she had probably lingered too long in the company of a know-it-all feline. Time to get back to life.